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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Stolen Art Watch, Bill Reid Theft Leaves more Questions Than Answers !!!

Career criminal paid $20,000 for helping recover stolen artwork

The RCMP paid $20,000 to a career criminal for key information that led to the safe recovery of art treasures stolen from a B.C. museum last year, CBC News has learned.

Martin Weigelt was given the reward because the information he provided helped police recover all 12 pieces of the Haida artist Bill Reid's work, police sources told CBC News Friday.

The pieces, including bracelets, brooches and cuff links, were stolen in May from glass-enclosed, stone showcases from the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Three golden-coloured Mexican art objects also vanished.

RCMP spokeswoman Const. Annie Linteau confirmed Friday that an unspecified amount of cash was paid to an individual.

"I cannot go into more details," she said.

But Linteau said the person rewarded was not a suspect in the heist, meaning the money was not an incentive to the perpetrator or perpetrators of the crime to ensure the safe return of the Haida artist's works.

Weigelt, 42, has a long criminal history dating back to 1988, according to court documents. He has at least 55 convictions, which include breaking and entering, theft, weapons possession and drug trafficking.

He made news headlines in November 2006 when some Vancouver police officers snapped a trophy photo of him in the police department's lockup after his arrest. The photograph showed four officers posed smiling with Weigelt, who was wearing a white prison jumpsuit and looked distressed and had an injury to his face.

No charges laid
No one was ever charged in the art heist, and Linteau said Friday that police are still investigating the case.

In June, police searched two residences in Burnaby and New Westminster and recovered 10 of the 12 Reid pieces, as well as the three Mexican items. Investigators arrested three people, questioned them and released them without disclosing their identities.

Police conducted two more searches in July and August and found the last two pieces. The RCMP never said how they made the finds, except that all manner of techniques were used, including round-the-clock surveillance.

Art Hostage comments:

Interesting, what happened to the rest of the advertised $50,000 reward if Martin Weigelt only got paid $20,000 ?

How did this low level career criminal get the inside information ?

Who is in the shadows behind Martin Weigelt ?

What other concessions have been made by authorities ?

Just out of curiosity, what is Aaron Syberg up to these days ??????

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Stolen Art Watch, Shakeapeare First Folio Theft, Courtroom Scene Next !!

Suspect charged in Shakespeare First Folio Theft

LONDON (AP) — British police charged a book dealer Wednesday with stealing a rare First Folio of Shakespeare's plays from a university library a decade ago.

Police in Durham in northeast England say the 1623 volume is worth about 3 million pounds ($4.2 million). It was among seven centuries-old books and manuscripts stolen from a display case at Durham University library in 1998.

The book was recovered after a man walked into the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. last June and asked for its authenticity to be checked. Library staff contacted police, who traced the man who had brought in the book and arrested Raymond Scott, 51, a book and antiques dealer from the Durham area.

Scott has denied theft and told reporters that he bought the volume in Cuba.

He was charged with theft of the folio and with four other counts of theft and handling stolen goods.

Scott was released on bail and ordered to appear in a Durham court on Feb. 10.

The folio, which scholars consider one of the most important printed books in the English language, returned in October to Durham University, where police say it is being kept "under lock and key."

Monday, January 26, 2009

Stolen Art Watch, Art Stolen, So What, Who Cares, Keep Watching Pop Idol !!

Howson artwork stolen from house

Four paintings by renowned Scottish artist Peter Howson have been stolen from a house in rural Stirling.

Central Scotland Police said the paintings, each measuring 12in by 10in and featuring the Hardman's Face, were taken from a house at Croftamie.

The force said the pictures were each worth a four-figure sum and has urged anyone with information about their whereabouts to contact them.

Howson is best known for paintings of the Bosnian war and the singer Madonna.

The theft occurred between 1100 GMT and 1600 GMT on Monday 19 January.

Jewellery was also stolen.

Police said the paintings were not in frames and have asked anyone who may have "innocently" bought them or been asked to frame them to get in touch.

They could not say whether or not they may have been stolen to order.

Howson, 50, who studied at Glasgow School of Art, is renowned for his powerful figurative work which has been collected by celebrities such as Madonna, David Bowie and Bob Geldof.

He also produced nude portraits of Madonna 2002.

He became established in the 1980s as one of the New Glasgow Boys, a group of painters concerned with portraying social issues.

During the Balkans conflict, Howson became the official British war artist.

Art Hostage comments:

Another day, another art theft, move along, nothing more to see here !!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Stolen Art Watch, Whilst The Cats Away !!

RAM raiders smashed through the front of a Moreton antiques shop and stole around £30,000 worth of stock in the early hours of this morning.

Windsor House Antiques Centre in High Street was raided shortly after midnight when two offenders wearing dark clothing broke through the shop in an olive/green jeep or 4x4 and reversed towards the door.

They spent a few minutes in the shop before being driven off with the stolen goods by a third offender.

Manager Jane Finegan was woken by a call from security at 12.15am to hear the news. "They came through the door and smashed five rented cabinets which contained clocks, silver and jewellery," she said.

"The goods stolen are estimated to be worth around £30,000 but I am waiting for the dealers to get back to me to find out the final amount."

As well as the valuables stolen, the thieves caused thousands of pounds of damage to the door, windows and cabinets.

PC Duncan Cusack, of North Cotswolds Police, said: "The owners will be counting the cost of the items that were taken this morning but they are expecting it to run into thousands of pounds.

"It is obviously causing a considerable amount of distress to them at the moment so we are hoping that anyone who may have information or saw suspicious activity in the area recently will come forward and help forward our enquiry."

Anyone with information can call 0845 090 1234, or alternatively Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111, quoting incident 2 of January 22.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Stolen Art Watch, Recovering Stolen Art is One Thing, Tracing it is Another !!

A mysterious portrait found in Bushey with two famous stolen paintings worth £82,000 continues to baffle police “desperate” to find its owner.

The painting of an unidentified bearded man was found in a bin liner dumped in a loft in Cooks Mead.

Surprised police stumbled across it while on a drugs raid.

Two other paintings found in the property were instantly recognised by the National Art Collection as those stolen from Somerset House in London, a theft which sparked an international high-profile search.

Despite almost unanimous suggestions that the historic painting must be worth a lot of money, art experts including Scotland Yard's Antiques Unit have failed to trace the owner or identify the artwork.

Detective Sergeant Duncan Woodhams, leading the investigation, said all nationally-reported cases of art thefts had been looked at and there were now indications that it could have been taken from another country.

Despite the way it was stored, he said there was no evident damage to the painting and that research had revealed it was not found in its original frame.

Police are currently in talks to feature the artwork on the Antiques Roadshow and Crimewatch to help with the identification.

On Tuesday, 58-year-old Leslie Churchill from Cooks Mead, was sentenced to six and a half years in prison for handling the two stolen paintings that were taken from Somerset House, possession of Class A drugs with intent to supply and money laundering.

He had pleaded guilty to the charges in October.

Detective Sergeant Woodhams said the paintings were found with around 1kg of cocaine, having a street value of around £90,000, and £100,000 in cash.

He said: “We couldn't believe our eyes when we saw them. We thought the quantity of drugs was something special.”

After the sentencing, he said: “Leslie Churchill was a man who made money and gained from other people’s misery. This sentence sends out a strong message to would be criminals in Hertfordshire – we will find you and you will be brought to justice.”

The two identified paintings were Shipping by John Thomas Serres from 1821 and Frances Cotes' 1764 portrait of the Scottish architect Sir William Chambers. They have both been returned to Somerset House.

Anyone with any information about the mystery painting is asked to telephone 0845 33 00 222.

Art Hostage comments:

Yet again the link between drugs and stolen art is confirmed. It is not just the very high profile stolen artworks that are traded for drugs but the thousands of stolen artworks taken each week.

It is likely this painting is stolen but was only reported as a portrait and because there is no national stolen art and antiques database it has proven difficult to trace.

It does remind me of the occasion when Police recovered a pair of valuable Royal Doulton vases by Hanna Barlow and finally traced them to a theft whereby they were described as a pair of Dalton vases by the investigating Police Officer who knew nothing about art and antiques.

These type of genuine mistakes makes it difficult to trace stolen art when it is recovered, especially if the artworks are not paintings, which do have a uniqueness that makes tracing them slightly easier.

I bet there is a crime report somewhere listing this painting but the brief description means it is trying to find a needle in a haystack.

If there was a national stolen art and antiques database then the search would zoom in on all stolen portraits of men, then the photo could be distributed to the relevant Police force, who in turn could show the photo to the victim.

Until then everyday stolen art and antiques will be hard to trace.

Upon another note, normally if Police cannot trace this painting as stolen it would be returned to the person who was in possession of it.

However, as this Leslie Churchill person has been convicted I wonder if this painting will be the subject of the Proceeds of crime act 2002 and be confiscated ??

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Stolen Art Watch, Italy Leads by Example !!

Italy recovers religious masterpieces stolen in 2004

Italian police have recovered 10 masterpieces stolen in 2004, including depictions of the holy family and the whipping of Jesus.

The paintings had been stolen from the halls of Santo Spirito in Sassia, a religious complex near the Vatican.

They were discovered in good condition, wrapped in newspaper in the trailer of a suspected art smuggler, Italan police said Tuesday.

Police art squad chief Gen. Giovanni Nistri said the paintings had a value of about $5.3 million US.

Among the works are the painting Holy Family, showing Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus.

The painting is the work of Flemish master Hendrick van den Broeck, who also decorated the entrance of the Sistine Chapel, according to an expert in 16th-century art, Claudio Strinati.

The work had previously been attributed to Parmigianino, a contemporary of Michelangelo.

Also discovered was The Flagellation of Christ, a 17th-century painting by Giuseppe Cesari, a painter also known as the Knight of Arpino.

Police said they discovered the works in December during an investigation of art smuggling.

Gen. Nistri said there was evidence the smuggler intended to try to sell the works outside Italy.

The man is not believed to be behind the theft, which is still under investigation, he said.

Italy Cracks Down on Stolen Art, Doubling Recoveries

By Steve Scherer and Adam L. Freeman

Jan. 13 (Bloomberg) -- The value of stolen art works recovered by Italian police more than doubled last year as authorities cracked down on unauthorized archeological digs.

Works valued at 183 million euros ($243 million) were reclaimed in 2008, compared with 82 million euros the year before, General B. Giovanni Nistri of the Italian military police said at a news conference today in Rome.

The art doesn’t include pieces voluntarily sent back to the country by foreign museums and collectors.

Italy’s rich archeological heritage spans the entire peninsula, including Etruscan tombs and Roman villas. Italy in recent years has pushed for the repatriation of pieces allegedly smuggled out of the country from clandestine excavations. Some of those works have landed in collections at the world’s most famous museums.

The number of known illegal digs in Italy last year increased by 15 percent to 238, mostly in the area around Rome, the Carabinieri police said. Ten paintings were recovered on Dec. 19 following a raid on a camper van parked in the city. The paintings were taken from the 12th century Santo Spirito in Sassia basilica in Rome in 2004.

The most valuable piece recovered was a damaged oil-on-wood painting of a Madonna with Baby Jesus attributed to the 16th century artist Francesco Mazzola, more commonly known as Parmigianino. All the recovered paintings were “well packaged and ready to be exported from Italy,” Nistri said.

The Culture Ministry, along with the Carabinieri police, announced separately that it had returned 2,200 archeological objects, mostly antique coins, to Bulgaria today. The objects had been seized in Italy in 2005 and were found to have been stolen and then exported from Bulgaria, according to an e-mailed statement.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Stolen Art Watch, Shakespeare Folio Accused, The Mental Illness Defence !!

Eccentric shoplifter compares himself to Gandhi

An eccentric antiques dealer caught stealing a cannabis book from a high street book store compared his plight to that of Gandhi today.
Raymond Scott, 51, was caught by plainclothes security staff stealing a copy of The Cannabible Collection worth £18.99 and a £32 book on stone sheepfold artworks from a branch of Waterstone's in the MetroCentre in Gateshead.

Bearded Scott appeared before Gateshead Magistrates' Court wearing his trademark Cuban holiday outfit - blue jeans, brown T-shirt, brown leather jacket, dark Tiffany & Co New York sunglasses and a Felipe Massa F1 baseball cap.

Scott was allowed to keep his sunglasses on throughout the proceedings because he said he had a problem with his eyes.

The court heard MetroCentre security staff spotted Scott acting suspiciously in the shopping centre on September 21 last year and followed him into Waterstone's.

They then watched him pick up one of the two books off a shelf and carry it to another part of the store and placing it on the shelf next to the other book.

Scott was then seen crouching out of view before the security guards heard Scott place both books in a plastic bag and walk out of the shop.

He was then challenged by the guards and subsequently arrested by the police.

"The defendant admitted he left the store without making payment for either of the books," said prosecutor David Mayhew.

Scott, of Sandford Close, Wingate, County Durham admitted a single charge of theft totalling £50.99 after changing his plea on the morning of his trial.

According to the book's summary, The Cannabible Collection, written by photographer and "renowned pot connoisseur" Jason King, is an encyclopaedia of his favourite types of marijuana - from the "coffee shops of Amsterdam to the mountains of Afghanistan to the volcanoes of Hawaii".

It is "the most indulgent gift you can give the pot lover in your life - except for the herb itself".

Enclosures, by Andy Goldsworthy, records his series of artworks created from the stone sheepfolds of Cumbria.

Judith Curry, defending, said Scott was due to see a psychiatrist to discuss on-going mental health problems.

"He is under a great deal of stress and there has been some concerns to his psychiatric health at the time of this offence," she told the court.

Magistrates fined Scott a total of £105 and also ordered him to pay £150 prosecution costs.

Scott, who does not have a job, offered to pay £1 a week from his benefits but chair of the bench Gail Askew told him the minimum payment was £5 a week.

Speaking outside court, Scott compared his present position to that of Gandhi.

"I am not going to pay the fine because the amount was totally inappropriate and if they want to send me to prison for non-payment then so be it," he told reporters.

"Was not Gandhi imprisoned by the British? "I feel the fine was excessive and I find it morally repugnant that Waterstone's should make a profit from selling the bible."

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Stolen Art Watch, Shakespeare Folio Scam Starts to Unravel !!

Antiques dealer loses civil claim for Shakespeare book

ANTIQUES dealer Raymond Scott has lost his civil claim to obtain a priceless book at the centre of a police probe.

Scott, 51, is at the centre of a transatlantic investigation into the theft of a £15m edition of a Shakespeare first folio from Durham University Library.

The eccentric bachelor, of Washington, Tyne and Wear, has told how he took a copy of a first folio he got from a friend in Cuba to the Folger Shakespeare library, in Washington DC . . . but police believe it’s the same copy which was stolen from Durham University Library in December 1998.

Last October, Scott lodged a civil claim when he heard the rare folio was back at Durham University and he demanded its vice-chancellor — Professor Christopher Higgins — return it to him so that he can prove ownership.

However, in a High Court hearing held at Newcastle Crown Court on Friday, he was told he can’t have access to the book because it was being kept at the university on the police’s behalf.

Bruce Walker, the barrister representing Professor Higgins, said: “The wrong defendant has been sued.

“It is needed for the police investigation and retained by Durham Police, but it is in Durham University’s custody in their climate-controlled facilities and it cannot be examined without the police being present.”

Dressed in his favourite Cuban holiday outfit in honour of his “Cuban copy” — topped off with a baseball cap signed by Michael Schumacher and Tiffany sunglasses — Scott represented himself in the two-hour hearing, held in the chambers of district judge Peter Pescod.

Scott said: “If I have made a mistake in naming Professor Higgins I apologise.

“Learned counsel say I want the folio’s return but that is not in fact the case. I only wish for an independent expert to be given access to the first folio. I understand police have virtually monopolised the experts capable of examining the first folio.

“I have to agree they are not in a position to release it to me. It does appear as if I have mis-timed this.

“I was a bit impetuous when I went to the county court . . . I suppose my blood was up to a certain extent, by the very fact it had been returned to Durham University.

“The police investigation is into its seventh month now. Rather like the Prince of Denmark, I have borne the whips and scorns of time, and the law’s delay.”

Judge Pescod rejected the claim against Professor Higgins. He ordered Scott to pay the costs, and asked him how he felt about paying the fee, which he reduced from £8111 to £5000.

Quoting from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Scott replied: “They are entitled to a pound of my flesh so long as they don’t take any of my blood.”

He has to answer to police bail later this month, when he hopes to find out whether he will be charged in connection with the theft of the book.

Art Hostage comments:

Next time Raymondo seeks a visa to travel to America he will get his passport stamped,

"Your Bard"

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Stolen Art Watch, Torture Trial, Take Two !!

Violent country house robbery: two men appear in court before re-trial

TWO men accused of the violent robbery of an Aldsworth home where the elderly homeowners were tied up and threatened, have appeared in court today (Monday, January 5).
The re-trial of Wolfgang Schmelz (57) and Christopher Doughty (48), who are both charged with robbery, begins tomorrow (Tuesday) at Hove Crown Court.

This afternoon the men, both from Southampton, watched as a jury of eight women and four men was selected.

In April last year, the first jury failed to reach verdicts on charges Schmelz and Doughty staged a violent robbery at Aldsworth Home in Westbourne in June 2006.

Antiques dealer Philip Capewell (64) was sent to prison for five years for conspiring to handle stolen goods taken from the robbery.

Another man, William Johnson also of Southampton, was charged with robbery alongside Schmelz and Doughty but was found not guilty.

During the break-in, Thomas and Sarah Williams were tied up and threatened to have their fingernails removed by pliers if they did not co-operate with the robbers.

A gang took possessions worth £380,000 including medals, swords, guns, silver and porcelain, and then made off in the couple's car.

The re-trial of Schmelz and Doughty is expected to last for four weeks, but could run into a fifth week.